Howells studied medicine at Middlesex Hospital Medical school. He spent his early career at the Middlesex and the London Hospitals. In 1960 he became a physician at MRI and a senior lecturer in medicine at the University of Manchester. Howell specialized in the study of respiratory disease and helped establish a respiratory care unit at MRI. He was later appointed dean and professor of medicine at the University of Southampton.president of the British Medical Association (1989-90) and president of the British Thoracic Society (1998-9).
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